11 August 2001 in the light of progress

21:00: I tilt the screen of the handheld until these words are obscured by the reflected image of my bedlamp. Not a metaphysical light but an actual one, and electric. Not a lie or an illusion. But yes it is art, the art of applied physics, of electrical engineering, and of industrial design and much else that is less elevated or esteemed. And in the writing of these words (or any others on such a digitising screen) it is the art of thinking in public.

Very good (I think to myself and to you) this little event embodies most of the questions worth asking - and perhaps also their answers: what is life, what is good, what is art, what is everything? Elements of the enlightenment (and of positivism) - that we thought were discredited, by critical reason.

These compressed thoughts, to me so satisfying, are provoked by a day of reading what Laurence Lampert wrote* of Plato and of Nietzsche and of the apparent imperfection of human life and of the falsity of ideals and perhaps of art also. (And of philosophy?)

Up to now I've always dismissed the ideas of Plato, and of Neitzsche, (after the first few sentences) as being unbearable. And the idea of original sin also. But today, after reading only a few pages of Laurence Lampert's reading of Friedrich Nietzsche and of Plato, through the mind of Leo Strauss, I feel able for the first time to contend with these ideas of the good and the bad, the ideal and the compromised. Even the light and the dark - and the falsity (to me) of that distinction.

All this is about the whole, the unwisdom of attempting to describe it, and its indescribable reality... but I'm trying to write of it. I'd be better writing fiction, or poetry, he thinks.

Pause to read what I've unexpectedly written (I expected to begin a fiction, not this, but I don't yet know how to begin it). Clumsy paragraph. Imperfect.


This is a morality, or rather the amorality and the independence of mind, insofar as it's successful, write the fingers. The eyes look back at notes written on paper while reading Laurence Lampert:

But no, it's too late at night, no images come, I half decide to stop writing... but 'something detains me', if only that cliche...

Yes perfection is impossible, or was, but the electric light was impossible once, as was writing, as was this before I had the chance to read Laurence Lampert...?

Perhaps it's gratitude I should write at this moment, for the imperfect life that becomes perfect, eventually, through the arts of each one of us, good or bad or indifferent. That is the process, most wonderful - that we all live and can do it! We don't need the philosophers, or the priests, or the artists, or the governments, or the laws, or the banks, or the markets. They are imperfections, or crutches, until the time when we all do what they do. For one day the crutches will be gone and each one will be a completed person, enabled to do everything, writes the optimist. O. That's the fiction, the perfection, as I write it! Each one being electric, become holy.

Making progress?

And the electric light is still projected from the screen - it's only the words that are shadows. Luckily for us.

*Laurence Lampert, Leo Strauss and Nietzsche, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London 1996, page 181.